Police help NHS to tackle violence and aggression

Friday 11 January 2019

Simon Messinger, Dame Eileen Sills and Jayne King outside St Thomas' Hospital

Guy’s and St Thomas’ have joined forces with the Metropolitan Police to encourage more staff to report violent and abusive behaviour by patients and visitors as part of Operation Cavell.

The move comes as the Trust revealed there had been 219 physical assaults on nurses and other frontline staff from April to September 2018.

It marks the next phase of the Keep our staff safe campaign which has seen Guy’s and St Thomas’ roll out body worn cameras for security staff earlier in 2018 after successfully trialling them throughout 2017.

Operation Cavell is supported by a pact which commits the two organisations to build trust among staff so they feel confident when reporting assaults, threats, or violence by patients and visitors.

Dame Eileen Sills, Chief Nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “We want staff to feel safe and supported when they come to work. Whilst I absolutely understand that coming to hospital can be a very stressful experience any unprovoked violence and aggression towards staff is unacceptable.

“We have made a commitment with Lambeth and Southwark police to work together to tackle violence and antisocial behaviour towards our staff and make sure any offenders are pursued through the courts if necessary.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Messinger is in charge of Lambeth and Southwark police and signed the pact for the Met. He said: “We do not tolerate violence against our own officers and staff – when they are threatened or assaulted, we are robust in pursuing the offenders and bringing them to justice.

“We are committed to providing the same protection under the law to our colleagues across healthcare services. When NHS staff report an incident, we will put the victim first and take positive action.”

The latest figures from Guy’s and St Thomas’ show the number of physical assaults has decreased from 274 in the same period in 2017 to 219. This has been attributed to the increased use of body worn security cameras and the support and guidance given to staff about de-escalating situations. Other statistics show that in the six months from April to September 2018:

  • 38 patients have been excluded from the Trust which means they will only be provided with emergency treatment – up from 29 in the same period in 2017
  • 236 behaviour contracts have been issued – these explain why that person’s behaviour was unacceptable and that any repeat will mean they are excluded from the Trust – up from 140 in the same period in 2017.

Jayne King, Head of Security at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “Being attacked should never just be part of the job for our staff. Whilst the number of incidents is still far too high I’m pleased to see the body cameras worn by the security team are acting as a deterrent and helping us to issue more sanctions to offenders.”

The Keep our staff safe campaign includes:

  • posters in hospitals and community sites using anonymised real stories of staff who have been attacked or abused
  • an updated guide for managing challenging behaviour by patients and visitors, and a training film for staff
  • training courses in conflict resolution
  • working with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust on bespoke training for staff based in the community, such as health visitors.

In September 2018 a new law was passed that doubled the maximum sentence from six to 12 months in prison for assaulting an emergency worker, including healthcare workers. There is already a specific offence for assaulting a police officer, but for the first time similar protection was extended to anyone carrying out the work of an emergency service.

Last updated: March 2022

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